Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this.
Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.
Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.
How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1) We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2) We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3) We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.
How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them. And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”2 It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.
While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.
1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)
The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell
Think about that for a moment. Research shows many adults with divorced parents secretly blame themselves for their parents’ divorce. However, we often skip the step of looking at how we tried to prevent the ship from sinking.
Were you the parent pleaser? You worked to keep the peace at all costs so they’d stay together. Unfortunately, trying to keep your brothers and sisters peaceful was like herding kittens.
Was being the problem kid your solution? Surely if they saw how badly you needed them, they’d stay together.
Maybe perfection was your answer. Be the perfect kid—good grades, clean room, no problems, and they wouldn’t split.
Dr. Judith Siegel writes, “Children are acutely sensitive to the unresolved conflicts between their parents and learn that by acting in a certain way they can prevent a conflict from surfacing and threatening the family as a whole.”1 Consequently, many of us tried to do something, but their divorce happened anyway. So why talk about this now?
Why do we need to know what we did?
Three primary reasons:
First, it’s likely that how you tried to save your parents’ marriage is how you’re trying to “save” your marriage or relationships today. Being the peacemaker, people pleasing, moping, getting into trouble, or trying to earn their love by being perfect is still how you approach situations. The problem is, it didn’t work then, and it’s probably not working now. In fact, it’s likely making things worse. (I.e. the “harder” you try, the more frustrated your mate gets.)
Second, we are putting our happiness in the hands of other people. We were crushed when our efforts to save our parents’ marriage failed. We respond in a similar way today. When our efforts to mend, heal or fix a relationship problem fail, we’re crushed. And we also fear the result we saw back then will repeat now—the demise of a cherished relationship.
Third, we believe a series of lies like:
- We have control over how others respond.
- When we fail it’s because we are inadequate or inferior.
- Failure is final.
- Our worth is dependent on how others react to us.
1. We learn from Adam and Eve that God created man with the freedom to choose. Thus, regardless of how perfect we feel we behave, people can still choose to respond negatively.
2. Failing is part of the human condition. The wisest man ever, King Solomon, wrote, “the righteous falls seven times and rises again.”2 However, though we fail, God says we are not failures, we are precious3.
3. We always have worth because we’re created by God. God also confirmed our worth by sending Jesus here to die for us (Romans 5:8).
Whether from divorced families or not, we tend to respond the way we learned to respond as kids. This can be problematic for adults with divorced parents, but, thankfully, God’s truth can trounce the lies that mislead us.
1Siegel, Judith P. What Children Learn from Their Parents’ Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, but It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy. Harper Collins, 2010.
2 Proverbs 24:16, ESV.
3 Psalm 139:17
Divorce by Tony Guyton
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell
I am excited to announce that I will be co-leading a support group for adults with divorced parents starting in May. Please contact Sycamore Counseling Services for more information.
Here is a video with a brief description of who this group is for.
These words appear in a Washington Post story by Crystal Ponti. The article was mostly tongue-in-cheek about how divorce might make parenting easier, but one quote caught my eye:
“Research also shows that divorce is not all that devastating for most children. Sure, it comes with some consequences and a huge adjustment period, but overall, kids bounce back.”1
Because this mindset is so prevalent today, let’s take a closer look at what comes before the “kids bounce back.”
Not all that devastating
The definition of devastating (and its root devastate) includes, to render desolate, overwhelm, to lay waste, and destruction.” 2 So, if totally devastating (on a 1 – 10 scale) is a ten, is a devastation level of six okay? of four? And would any level of devastating behavior be acceptable in an intact home?
For most children
More than 51% are not totally devastated. This is good news?
For those with tears in your eyes from laughter, pull yourself together. For those with tears from painful unbelief, please know that even though this is the dominant view—including the belief of many parents, it’s normally not due to ill-will. Non children of divorce simply don’t get it.
Elizabeth Marquardt illustrates this well in her book, Between Two Worlds. There she reveals the double standard children of divorce face with a series of questions.
- “How often do married [intact] parents send their child away from home for days, weeks, months, or years at time?
- How often do married parents put their children on airplanes by themselves?
- How often do married parents divide their financial responsibilities for their children down to the penny?
- How often do married parents sleep with someone besides the child’s parent in the home when the child is present?”3
ACOD’s know this is the tip of the iceberg, but Marquardt goes on to say, “the needs of children of married parents and children of divorced parents are the same. So why are children of divorce considered so resilient? Because the adults need them to be that way.”3
Huge adjustment period
Truest statement in the quote, but most parents and experts doubt its validity. Divorce is a bump in the road and kids are resilient is their mantra.
This is the crux of the “good divorce” argument. Overall, since most children of divorce don’t become ax-murders or burdens on society, divorce is not bad for them.
The devastating truth
I had no idea that fears of inferiority, fears of inadequacy, a fear of doom, fear of marriage, unforgiveness, and a host of other issues clung to me like leeches well into my adulthood. ACOD are usually unaware of these repercussions. But though we may look normal on the outside, these issues act like termites in our relationships.
A hopeful future
Parental divorce doesn’t have to be devastating. However, healing doesn’t come with denial, but working through the issues. Fortunately, there are resources here that can break your divorce-related chains. Review these and pray for God to heal your heart and your relationships.
2Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 1994, dilithium Press, Ltd.
3 Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds, (NY,NY: Crown Publishers, 2005), 181.
Couple- Photo by Scott Stewart for splitsville.com
Divorce Sucks! by Addie Williams
It’s all about love by Candida.Performa
In part one, we looked at the impact of Father Hunger. But what can be done to keep it from starting? What can a father do if the divorce has occurred and father hunger has already taken root in your daughter?
A father’s love is the most potent antidote for Father Hunger. Popular speaker, Tom Harmon, compiled a list from 72 high school girls that details how a father can better show his daughter that he loves her.
- Spend quality time with me one on one.
- Take me on “dates” … out to eat, to walk, or just be together.
- Give me love and affection.
- Make me feel cherished and that I am precious to you.
- Really try to understand; and listen well before answering.
- Give me your undivided attention when I am sharing my heart.
- Give me clear goals and direction.
- Be a man of strong convictions.
- Be a spiritual leader to the family.
- Give me your undivided attention when I’m sharing my heart.
- Give me praise and encourage.
- Hold me accountable to my standards and commitments.
- Teach me how to do household maintenance.
- Visibly show your love for Mom.
- Spend special times with Mom.
- Find time to spend with the family.
- Set a good example for my brother(s) by helping around the house.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with the family.
- Humble yourself by admitting your failures and mistakes.
Whether divorced or not (with the possible exception of (14 &15) these can all be done. Harmon concludes his list with a statement from every daughter’s heart:
YOU AND OUR RELATIONSHIP ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME!
- Print this list and let your wife and/or ex-wife know that you’re committed to strengthening your daughter(s) by doing the things on it.
- Listen to my podcast on Father Hunger from the Champions Arise radio series.
- Pray for God to protect your daughter’s heart and mind, and use you to repair any damage.
Regardless of how you’ve done in the past, begin assuring her of your love in word and deed. Though your daughter may give you some resistance at first, persevere. She’ll thank you someday.
I love my daddy because… by Matt Phillips
Thanks Daddy… by Thomas Leuthard
Forgiveness by Tiffany Scantlebury
To set the stage for this important topic please answer the following questions:
Question #1: Based on the number of sexual partners before marriage, which woman is least likely to divorce.
If you picked zero, you’re correct.1 The divorce rate for female virgins is about 6%1 Having one partner was close because the woman tends to marry him—even though premarital sex with even one partner significantly increases the odds of divorce.1 Also a female virgin or one who marries her one partner is likely to attend church regularly—which greatly reduces her chance of divorce.
Question #2: Based on the number of sexual partners before marriage, which woman is most likely to experience divorce.*
9+ is incorrect. 3-8 is wrong too. The answer is two. Why?
Nicholas Wolfinger, author of Understanding the Divorce Cycle, and coauthor of Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage Among African Americans and Latinos, writes, “my best guess rests on the notion of over-emphasized comparisons.”1 Basically the woman mentally compares her current husband to her previous lover which opens the door to doubts and temptations.
So where does Father Hunger fit in?
Parental divorce, Father Hunger behaviors which often include multiple sexual partners are commonly linked in research. Writing about the loss of fathers, Dr. Edward Kruk states, “girls manifest an object hunger for males, and in experiencing the emotional loss of their fathers egocentrically as a rejection of them, become susceptible to exploitation by adult men.”2 Dr. Beverly Rodgers writes, “Many of these girls lose their virginity at a younger age and have higher rates of promiscuity.”3
What can I do about father hunger?
If your parents are divorced,
- Learn about Father Hunger. Adult Children of Divorced Parents by Beverly and Tom Rodgers, Daughters of Divorce by Terry Gaspard, and Longing for Daddy by Monique Robinson are strong books on this topic.
- Learn what the Bible says about God as our father. For example:
- Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.4
- A father to the fatherless,a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.5
- How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them.6
- Regardless of what your past may look like, commit to honoring God with your life today.
What can proactively help to head off father hunger?
We’ll look at 19 things that can be done next time.
*figures are for divorces prior to the year 2000. After the year 2000 2 partners ranked slightly below 9+.
3 Beverly and Tom Rodgers, Adult Children of Divorced Parents; Making Your Marriage Work.(San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc, 2002) 11.
4Psalm 27:10, NLT
5Psalm 68:5, NIV
6Psalm 139:17, NLT, 1996
Selena places the ring on Greg’s finger by Greg Robleto
Divorce by Gerard Van der Leun
Woman and Bible – Prayer a Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000